The Veterans in a New Field were delighted to play a return performance at the 1868 Church of the United Methodist congregation in Quarryville on 12/13/14. Once again we were treated to an outstanding Christmas dinner and the good fellowship and spirit of our friends there. Our performance encouraged the audience to think of what Christmas might have been like for the members of the church who celebrated the season just a few years before the present building was erected while the Civil War still raged and many of their loved ones where at the battle front. The songs we played were old but the fruit of our research provided what may have been news to many of us; that a lot of our Christmas standards were well known and widely sung and played at the time of the war on both sides of the lines.
We started with Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, The Boys are Marching ; also know as the Prisoners Hope, an anthem of prisoners of war to be liberated and return home, perhaps in time for Christmas. Go Tell it on the Mountain; an African-American spiritual that tells of the Nativity of Christ. The song was documented in an 1865 compilation by John Wesley Work, Jr. Columbia Gem of the Ocean; a patriotic tune from 1843 was sung to keep up the spirits of the people of the Union. O Come All Ye Faithful, sung in both Latin and English, dates back to the mid-1700s with the English translation dating to 1841. Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly; a Welsh melody from the 16th Century was published in English in 1862. It was also covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1994. The Vets sang the older version. Silent Night was sung in English and in German (many Civil War soldiers especially in the Union Army were German born). German was the language in which it was originally written in Oberndorf in the Austrian Alps in 1818. By the time of the Civil War it had spread across Europe and the United States. It had been translated into English in 1863. Finally, a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells was presented, complete with jingle bells ringing. The song dates to 1850 and represents a ‘Civil War’ in itself with both Medford, MA, where James Lord Pierpont lived when he was inspired by the sleigh races there and Savannah, GA, where he later relocated, claiming the honor of being the home of the tune. Pierpont later served in the southern cavalry and both towns have historic plaques claiming Jingle Bells as their own.
As always, the Vets had a great time and all those present sang along with the full spirit of the Season.